Monthly Updates for Facebook

August 2023 Update: Facebook

By: Kyle Wyndham-West, PhD Student (McMaster University)

In the month of August Facebook recorded no communications with the Registry of Lobbyists. Facebook/Meta, along with Google,have been critical of new measures that would require them to  pay news sources dunder the new Online News Act. Reportedly Meta would have an estimated payout of $62 million to Canadian news outlets as per CRTC guidelines.

July 2023 Update: Facebook

By: Brad McNeil, PhD Candidate (McMaster University)

In July 2023, Facebook registered only one communication report with the Registry of Lobbyists. Facebook continued June meetings with Canadian Heritage (PCH) Deputy Minister Isabelle Mondou on the topic of “industry.” As noted in last month’s Facebook lobbying update, although Facebook states that the subject matter of these talks are industry, it is possible that the social media corporation’s recent discussions with government institutions have revolved around Bill C-18, the Online News Act. In early July, it was reported that the Canadian Government would no longer be advertising on Facebook and Instagram. Heritage Minister Pablo Rodrieguez noted that Meta had not been speaking with the Canadian Government about their decision to block news in Canada in response to Bill C-18. Minister Rodriguez notes that the Government’s withdrawal from advertising on Meta apps will cost Meta approximately $10 million in business. Quebecor and Cogeco have followed suit and pulled their advertisements form Meta platforms.

The new Heritage Minister, Pascale St-Onge, who took over for Pablo Rodrieguez on July 26, has noted that she will stand firm and refuses to give in to tech giants like Facebook. Pascale St-Onge notes that she is “deeply committed to ensuring that Canada has a free and independent press, because it’s fundamental to our democracy.”  

Facebook’s July Communication Reports

DateLobbiedSubject MattersResponsible Officer
2023-07-11Isabelle Mondou, Deputy Minister Canadian Heritage (PCH)
Owen Ripley, Associate Assistant Deputy Minister (Cultural Affairs) Canadian Heritage (PCH)  
IndustryGarrick Tiplady

June 2023 Update: Facebook

By: Brad McNeil, PhD Candidate (McMaster University)

In June 2023, Facebook lobbyists picked up where they left off in May, logging five more lobbying communications reports on the topic of “industry”. Although Facebook reports that their meetings were about “industry”, it is possible that their lobbying efforts have been more specifically geared towards Bill C-18 the Online News Act. As noted in the May lobbying update for Facebook, Facebook is preparing to test blocking their news functionality on Facebook and Instagram as the company has expressed its concerns about Bill C-18 which would have Meta negotiate deals with media outlets so that they may be compensated for news being shared on their platform.

On June 1st, Mickey Djuric of the Canadian Press noted that Facebook was gearing up for a news blocking test that would last for a month. Facebook has noted that the company is willing to block news permanently if Bill C-18 passes. Speaking on the plan for the news blocking test, Rachel Curran, head of public policy for Meta Canada, noted, “It won’t be a uniform experience, necessarily. Some news links won’t be shareable on Facebook, but it might not be that experience on Instagram. It will be a different experience on different surfaces”. Meta’s test will affect international media companies, but people outside Canada will not be affected by the test. Meta notes that the test aims to ensure that non media agencies do not get “caught in the dragnet” if they decide to permanently block news. On June 13, it was reported that Quebec publishers were the first to experience blocked content on Facebook. A Winipeg based digital news outlet called also had some of its content blocked from Facebook. Chris Dell of noted: “as a small local news outlet, the majority of our traffic comes from Facebook and Google. My hope is that an amicable agreement can be reached between Silicon Valley and Ottawa that doesn’t leave publishers caught in the middle.”  Anticipating their content being blocked on Facebook, Quebec based news outlet Le Journal de Quebec launched a campaign that prompted readers to come directly to their organizations website rather than clicking through Facebook.

When Bill C-18 received royal assent on June 22, Meta spokesperson Scott Reid noted, “We have repeatedly shared that in order to comply with Bill C-18, which was passed today in Parliament, content from news outlets, including news publishers and broadcasters, will no longer be available to people accessing our platforms in Canada.”

DateLobbiedSubject MattersResponsible Officer
2023-06-21Ron Ahluwalia, Director of Policy | Minister’s Office, Canadian Heritage (PCH) Brian MacKay, Senior Policy Advisor | Minister’s Office, Canadian Heritage (PCH) Jude Welch, Chief of Staff | Minister’s Office, Canadian Heritage (PCH)  IndustryGarrick Tiplady
2023-06-01Isabelle Mondou, Deputy Minister Canadian Heritage (PCH)IndustryGarrick Tiplady
2023-06-01Pamela Wallin, Senator Senate of CanadaIndustryGarrick Tiplady
2023-06-01Julie Miville-Dechêne, Senator Senate of Canada Paula Simons, Senator Senate of Canada  IndustryGarrick Tiplady
2023-06-01Donna Dasko, Senator Senate of CanadaIndustryGarrick Tiplady

May 2023 Update: Facebook

By: Brad McNeil, PhD Candidate (McMaster University)

In May 2023, Facebook registered only two communication reports. Both meetings were on the topic of “industry”. Facebook is possibly interested in current developments related to Bill C-18 which would impact their business model. Bill C-18 would make platforms like “Google and Meta compensate news organizations for posting or linking to their work.” On May 8, 2023, The Canadian Press reported that Meta had already been preparing to stop linking to news in Canada. This decision to block news on Meta’s platforms is a business decision, notes Rachel Curran, head of public policy for Meta Canada. Speaking on behalf of Meta, Curran explained “we believe that news has a real social value. The problem is that it doesn’t have much of an economic value to Meta. That is the real concern with this legislation.” On May 29, Marie Woolf of the Globe and Mail reported that Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez will keep his door open to Facebook to continue to have discussion about Bill C-18. But the Heritage Minister made it clear that he will not accept threats to withdraw services by platforms like Facebook and Google. Minister Rodriguez noted, “We may disagree on something, but there is still a lot of stuff we can do together so my door is still open to see if we can discuss”.  Certainly, Facebook will continue discussions about Bill C-18 with the Canadian Government. Facebook lobbied Senator Donna Dasko (Ontario) and Senator Paula Simons (Alberta), who are part of the Transport and Communications Standing Committee examining Bill C-18. Both Dasko and Simons have problematized Bill C-18 in the past year.

DateLobbiedSubject MattersResponsible Officer
2023-05-19  Donna Dasko, Senator
Senate of Canada
IndustryGarrick Tiplady
 2023-05-19  Paula Simons, Senator
Senate of Canada
IndustryGarrick Tiplady

March 2023 Lobbying Update: Facebook

By: Brad McNeil, PhD Candidate (McMaster University)

On March 14, 2023, Facebook lobbied Senator Paula Simmons on the topic of “Industry”. This was Facebook’s first communications report for 2023. Their last communications report was in late October of 2022. Facebook does not register as many communications as other major tech companies operating in Canada, like Google and Amazon. For instance, Google actively lobbies on 23 different listed subject matters. Microsoft lobbies on 28. In comparison, Facebook lobbies about eight: Elections, Industry, National Security/Security, Privacy and Access to Information, Research and Development, Science and Technology, Taxation and Finance, and Telecommunications.   Although corporations must list details about the subject matter they lobby about, Facebook’s explanation reads “Engagement with government and parliamentarians on policies and programs impacting online digital platforms and broader policy issues. Facebook’s engagement is often at the request of government and parliamentarians.”  

While it is difficult to surmise what Facebook is lobbying about based on their descriptions of subject matter details. A survey of news articles reveals Facebook’s current Canadian interests related to Bill C-18, the Online News Bill. As explained in previous blog post, Bill C-18 would make platforms like “Google and Meta compensate news organizations for posting or linking to their work.”  Facebook is doubtlessly interested in developments surrounding Bill C-18 which would impact their business model. On March 11, the Globe and Mail reported that Meta would “block Canadians ability to view or share news content on Facebook and Instagram” if Bill C-18 became law. Meta spokesperson Lisa Laventure stated, “if the Online News Act passes in its current form, we will end the availability of news content on Facebook and Instagram for people in Canada.”  Lavanture explained Meta’s position, “A legislative framework that compels us to pay for links that we do not post, and which are not the reason the vast majority of people use out platform, is neither sustainable not workable.”

Responding to Facebook’s decision to pull news from Canada, Heritage Minster Pablo Rodriguez described Facebook’s planned reaction to the passing of Bill C-18 as a threat designed to pressure the Canadian Government to amend the Bill so that tech platforms would pay less to news organizations. Minister Rodriguez noted: “it is disappointing to see that Facebook has resorted to threats instead of working with the Canadian government in good faith.”  This track was also taken by Spokeswoman Laura Scaffidi of Heritage Canada, who noted that such scare tactics did not work in Australia and will not work in Canada either because “Canadians won’t be intimidated.” Heritage Canada maintains that “At the end of the day, all we’re asking the tech giants to do is compensate journalists when they use their work”.

On March 17 2023, the Globe and Mail reported that MPs were moving to summon Mark Zuckerberg before a Commons committee about the platforms decision to block news. The summons also called on Nick Clegg, President of Global Affairs at Facebook, and Chris Saniga, Head of Meta Canada.

In May 2023, when the Heritage Committee changed the title of their meeting with Facebook executives to “Tech Giants’ Current and Ongoing Use of Intimidation and Subversion Tactics to Evade Regulation in Canada and Across the World”, neither Zuckerberg, Clegg, nor Saniga showed up for the Heritage meeting. Instead, Kevin Chan, Meta Global Policy Director, and Rachel Curran, Head of Public Policy, Canada stood before the Heritage Committee. During the meeting Chan noted that Clegg didn’t show up precisely because of the title of the meeting was changed to from a generic description to an exact language which “presented a different framing for the meeting.” Regarding the company’s position on Bill C-18, Chan read a statement prepared by Clegg which stated that Facebook does not “benefit unfairly from publishers sharing links to news content”  on Facebook. Clegg claimed that the reverse was true, stating that it was publishers who benefit from the circulation of links on Facebook because the “Facebook Feed sent registered news publishers in Canada more than 1.9 billion clicks in the 13 months to April 2022.” Clegg noted that this would estimate to free marketing worth more than $230 million.

Although Facebook only registered one communication report presented in the chart below, this blog post points to the other mechanisms Facebook has used to pressure policy making in Canada. Overall, this episode reveals not only Facebook’s position on Bill C-18, it also highlights the diverse strategies beyond formal lobbying that major tech platforms like Facebook are willing to employ to exert pressure on policymakers in Canada.

Communication DateLobbiedSubject MattersResponsible Officer
2023-03-14Paula Simons, Senator Senate of CanadaIndustryGarrick Tiplady